Research suggests that meditation may be the best way to improve both cleanliness and mindset because it helps us to weed-out the unconscious movements that cause a lack of cleanliness in both body and mind.
There are considerable health problems that come from lack of cleanliness. Teeth decay because they haven’t been adequately taken care of. Facial zits occur from lack of cleanliness. Worse, you put a dirty finger in your mouth and spread a nasty virus to your intestinal tract.
Bad hygiene can cause the following:
- Smelly feet
- Athlete’s foot
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Cold, flu and other viruses streptococcus,
- Urinary infection,
- gum disease,
- body lice,
- food poisoning,
- skin infections,
- hookworm infection,
- hepatitis A,
- staph infection [source: livestrong]
Why you need both mental and physical hygiene
Not only is it essential to have good hygiene for your body, but it is also vital to have good mental hygiene.
Julie Hirsch is a leading authority on the subject of mental hygiene, and the author of the eye-opening and highly recommended book, Struck By Living: From Depression To Hope.
Julie tells THE DAILY MEDITATION:
“What is mental hygiene? Each person’s answer will be unique, but there are some things necessary for every plan. All of us need daily attention to the basics: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Most of us also need a measure of strong social support, as well as cultivation of purpose, perspective and humor in one’s life. “ (READ MORE)
Like physical hygiene, mental hygiene comes down to the basics:
- Taking progressive steps to reduce negative thought patterns.
- Making sure you’re thinking positive.
- Checking you’re getting your mental nutrition, which includes things like having healthy levels of compassion, or even asking yourself whether you feel happy today.
The crazy thing is, while most people take good care of personal cleanliness, mental hygiene is often ignored.
The average person washes their hands more than ten times a day. But your mind is arguably far more critical. And for that reason, every time you wash your hands, you should also take a moment to consider how clean your mind is.
Hygiene begins in your mind
One of the primary causes of bad hygiene (mental and physical) is unconscious movements or thoughts.
If you can’t stop putting your finger in your mouth, or you can’t stop thinking negative thoughts, the reason is entirely psychological.
Simply consider the number of times you unconsciously scratch a part of your body without washing your hands first. Such movements allow dirt and impurities to enter your body, where they can cause anything from an innocent spot to a virus, or worse. These incidents usually occur because we make unconscious movements, like scratching and fidgeting.
Then there’s the sheer amount of times we are oblivious to our surroundings.
The other day I was making dinner when I cut into a cauliflower I had bought at Metro. I had used it the day before (to make cauliflower rice). And I must have been oblivious to it. Because this time when I looked at the cauliflower, I found an entire swarm of tiny green maggots residing in it. Eating maggots? Not good hygiene. And it was entirely caused by a monetary lack of awareness.
Cleaning your mind will clean your body too
You can say that cleaning is the key to good hygiene. But the average person is in their own home for less than half the day. The majority of the time, we are in public spaces or at work, where we have limited control over our surroundings. And it’s not like there are soap and a tap everywhere we go.
Cleanliness is not the key. The key is being aware of where you’re putting your hands. In other words, being more mindful. More on this in just a sec.
Now consider the amount of unwanted thoughts that swarm in your mind like flies. Scientific research shows the average person thinks 70,000 thoughts per day. 56,000 of those thoughts contain negativity. Those negative thoughts are a chief cause of depression and anxiety. And scientific research shows that depression and anxiety are leading causes of bad personal hygiene.
Cut the problem off at the source (the negative thoughts), and you cure the problem.
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Why mindful people have clean bodies and minds
People who have high levels of Mindfulness also tend to be cleanly. This is because they are more conscious of both what they are doing with their body and what they are doing with their mind.
If we were aware of the fact that we just touched a table a bug was walking on, and now we’re putting our fingers in our mouths, we would probably stop.
If we were aware of the negative thoughts corrupting us every day, and the fact that they are taking a toll on our psychological wellbeing, we would take progressive steps to start thinking positively.
The key in both cases is simple: being aware of the bad habits we have. Because the moment we are aware of what we are doing, we can change those behaviours.
Ways To Improve cleanliness mentally and physically
You want the best of both personal hygiene and mental health. And Mindfulness is the key to getting there.
Mindfulness is the state of living in the present moment with complete awareness. When we are mindful, we are aware of our thoughts, our movements, and our environment.
Mindfulness makes us more aware of the sensations in the body. Importantly, we become consciously aware of bodily sensations before we unconsciously act on them.
This is huge. Typically, we are not aware of an itch until we start scratching it. Before we know it, we are scratching an itch, possibly with dirty hands, and thereby introducing impurities to the body, which can lead to health complications.
Mindfulness makes us aware of those bodily sensations before we act on them. And this gives us the power to act in healthier ways.
One good hygiene tip, for instance, is to always wash your hands before touching your face. But if an itch causes you to start scratching unconsciously before you’ve washed your hands, then you’ve lost before you’re even aware of it.
When you are mindful, however, you are aware, and that awareness gives you control of your actions, allowing you to swap bad habits for good ones.
Mindfulness also improves your mental hygiene. It makes you more aware of negative thoughts that are leading you to unhappiness, to stress and to those other conditions we all suffer from. So you end up with good personal hygiene and mental health.
Considerable scientific research suggests that meditation is an effective natural way of improving your cleanliness of both mind and body.
One of the leading causes of bad hygiene is depression. Depression causes us to believe that we do not matter, and those feelings demotivate us, making us less likely to take care of ourselves.
Another leading cause of bad hygiene is anxiety. Anxiety sufferers make more unconscious movements, such as scratching the body or fidgeting with their hair when they are nervous. These increase the rate at which impurities are transferred to the body.
Conversely, confidence and self-love lead to cleanliness. When we value ourselves, we are more likely to take care of ourselves.
Clinical research proves meditation increases confidence and self-love and reduces anxiety and depression. After reviewing more than 39 studies, it was concluded that Loving Kindness Meditation (a type of meditation in which we imagine extending love to people, including to ourselves) leads to a decrease in anxiety and depression and an increase in confidence and self-love. Studies suggest that these mental traits lead to an increase in good physical and mental hygiene because they make us value our mind and bodies more.
Meditation has also been shown to improve sleep.
Research was conducted in which 49 adults with sleep problems were given either mindfulness training or a traditional sleep hygiene program. The study shows that focused attention meditation improves sleep quality and helps to reduce daytime fatigue.
Good hygiene is a state of mind. That’s true of mental hygiene, and it’s true of personal hygiene too.
Depression. Anxiety. Mindlessness. These are the main reasons why people lack cleanliness. And meditation helps with them all.
Meditation improves self-love and confidence, decreases anxiety and depression, makes us value the mind and body more, and make us more aware of our actions and our surroundings. And this all leads to good hygiene habits.
If you’re looking to improve your mental wellbeing at work, consider our corporate meditation classes.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison